Opposites Attract

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Strange extremes meet in love's pathway."

Strong relationships, in both TV and real life, thrive on how each member compensates for the other’s weaknesses with his/her own strengths, and vice versa.

A Motor Mouth just isn’t as funny if he doesn’t have the Straight Man to torment. Similarly, only when a sweet, shy person is paired up with an equally jerkish one is their kindness and timidness made all the more noticeable.

It is all but guaranteed that the characters’ differences will cause more friction than harmony between them. That’s what gives the Odd Couple its fuel for Slap Slap Kiss, Will They or Won't They?, and Aw, Look -- They Really Do Love Each Other situations. Bickering and mushiness in one package. What’s not to like?

The Odd Friendship also has elements of this, but tends to focus on how the differences make them see each other, and maybe the world, through new eyes. Perhaps the serious one is Not So Above It All, or the Shrinking Violet has an inner strength she never knew she had. A Moe Couplet also does something similar to this, focusing on how each half of the couplet brings out the other's endearing or nurturing traits.

Opposites Attract has become so widespread in buddy cop shows, in the form of Serious White Guy meets Loud Black Guy, that it branched off into its own subtrope.

About the biggest challenge in creating a day-and-night dynamic is to keep the attract and repel cases relatively balanced. When the pendulum swings too far toward the repel side and the characters seem more interested in torturing each other than helping out, it’s no longer cute to watch; it’s just masochistic. The key (both in fiction and in Real Life) is to watch the pair's goals. If they want the same thing but use completely different methods to achieve it, it's Opposites Attract. If they want different things entirely, it's a divorce waiting to happen.

If you add a third-party mediator for balance, you get a Trio.

Contrast Birds of a Feather.

Popular Opposites Attract dynamics include:

Examples of Opposites Attract include:

IMPORTANT: Please, no ships, just Canon portrayal of attraction. If you see an example that hasn't been portrayed in canon as this type of attraction (or hasn't been portrayed in canon at all), please delete it. This also means examples will tend to be spoilery, so read on at your own risk.

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

  • When their relationship began, Starfire and Robin (later Nightwing) were this: Robin was reserved and methodical to Starfire's passionate impulsiveness. As the trope often works in real life, they began to influence each other so that each acquired a level of the other's personality, to the point that their breakup ultimately had Nightwing making an impassioned plea for Starfire to stay and Starfire making the reasoned, logical choice to leave.
  • Batman and Catwoman: one is a stolid, no-nonsense upholder of the law, the other is a mischievous (but never malicious) lawbreaker. They Fight Crime (sometimes, when she's not causing it herself).
  • Cyclops and Phoenix of the X-Men. He's an emotionally withdrawn introvert control freak and she's fire and life incarnate an outgoing redhead who reads minds. He draws the attentions of at least two other hot and extrovert telepaths, which suggests there's something interesting going on behind that facade...
  • Runaways paired quirky genius Gert with dumb jock Chase.
  • The Authority has gruff, brooding, cynical Midnighter Happily Married to kind, cheerful, optimistic Apollo. Even their costumes emphasise this trope: Apollo's is white with a gold sun emblem, while Midnighter's is black with a silver crescent moon.
  • Peanuts features Peppermint Patty and Marcy. Peppermint Patty is extroverted and athletic but Book Dumb. Marcie is introverted and intellectual and not at all into sports. They develop a symbiotic relationship, with Peppermint Patty protecting Marcie from bullies and Marcie helping Peppermint Patty with her studies.
  • Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter and Lois Lane, determined and outgoing reporter.

Fan Works

"You're so kind and warm inside that cold and calculating exterior of yours. Although it may not seem like it, we have quite a bit in common. It's nice how we can bond over literature, anime, manga, fencing, food, cats, art...and so much more. Despite not seeming like it, my heart beats fast around you." He gave a fond smile. "I can't help but love that about you Kiku."


  • Odd Couple Steed and Mrs. Peel in The Avengers 1998: he follows the rules, she doesn't. He admits that she's "just my type".
  • Milo Thatch and Princess Kida, she's the Native Princess who is one Pretty Girl. Then there is Milo James Thatch....'nuff said. It turns out they do have a surprising amount of things in common though. And they both agree that Atlantica should stay intact, though Milo technically isn’t a native.
  • Roger and Jessica Rabbit. "He makes me laugh."
  • Captain von Trapp and Maria in The Sound of Music.
  • The Great Race. The Great Leslie - charming male chauvinist. Maggie DuBois - militant women's libber. How can they not fall in love?
  • Enchanted: Both Giselle and Robert are kindred spirits (they’re both deeply compassionate), but Giselle is initially naive and Robert is initially cynical. Fortunately, they both learn from each other…so much so they ended up getting married.
  • Tangled gives us the jaded, worldly-wise thief and the spirited, innocent princess.
  • WALL-E has The Woobie Wall-E and Action Girl EVE. Both were built for a similar purpose, however. And they find out that they have surprising amount of things in common. Still, EVE is able to explain to Wall-E that they are in a bad situation when he assumes otherwise…and he finds himself agreeing.


Live-Action TV

  • Laid-back, jovial "Hawkeye" Pierce and hard-nosed Margaret Houlihan in M*A*S*H.
  • Penny and Leonard on The Big Bang Theory are such an extreme example as to nearly defy belief. Leonard is chubby, bespectacled, hopeless nerd with a Ph.D in Physics and alarmingly subpar social skills (which suddenly appear impressive when compared with those of the people he hangs out with); Penny is an attractive aspiring actress who works as a waitress in the nearby Cheesecake Factory and never finished college. Lots of Lampshade Hanging on this one.

Leonard: Are you even listening to me?
Sheldon: Yes. "Blah blah, hopeless Penny delusion, blah blah."

  • Badass Action Girl Aeryn Sun of Farscape, for some reason, finds herself falling for Plucky Comic Relief who alternates between The Kirk and The McCoy in the form of John Crichton. Though he's pretty well helpless in a real battle, she does end up training him up almost to Badass Bookworm levels. And while she does thaw a bit from her Ice Queen demeanor, he just gets more and more extroverted as he slowly goes crazier.
  • Microsoap used and deconstructed it. As the kids describe it, "It was a case of Opposites Attract. Then it was a case of Opposites Drive Each Other Crazy".
  • Mulder and Scully: Skeptical, scientifically oriented redheaded Catholic meets agnostic UFO/supernatural enthusiast. And it works.
  • Ultra-conservative Alex P. Keaton finds himself attracted to women who are the ideological opposite of him - while his best friend, Skippy, is the intellectual opposite of him.
  • Degrassi has done this for just about every pairing and friendship it can. It'd be faster to list the exceptions.
  • Moonlighting, starring Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis. Maddie (Shepherd) is a chic, smart, former supermodel who's dead serious about running the business; David (Willis) is a glib, lighthearted, and pragmatic Private Investigator.
  • The show Dharma and Greg revolves around this trope. Dharma is a free-spirited, tolerant, and ditzy flower child. While Greg is an upright, conservative, somewhat uptight lawyer. Despite the fact that they have virtually nothing in common they got married on their first date.
  • iCarly: Subverted or Inverted with the Sam/Fredde arc depending on what aspect you look at. The subversion is they are complete and total opposites that become physically attracted to each other but eventually break up when the actual relationship fails. They are unable to find any common ground in their interests and actually end up sabotaging them for each other when they try being involved in each other's activities. It ends up being one of the main causes of their break up. The inversion is Sam wants someone abnormal like her, and Freddie wants someone more normal like him, so that while they did have an Opposites Attract vibe, it's not what they need in a partner, making it clear that in their case they are attracted by similarity not opposition.
  • Bones has the coldly intelligent, scientific, atheist, hyper-rational titular character and her partner the FBI agent- religious, more emotional, more of a people person. Clearly they complement each other, but each also finds the other fascinating and attractive.
  • Action Girl/Hot Amazon Zoe in Firefly is married to Non-Action Guy/Ace Pilot Wash.
  • CSI: NY City boy Danny Messer and country girl wife Lindsay "Montana" Messer. (she's still tough in her own right, though.)
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold Arthur and Shrinking Violet (except when she's sufficiently ticked-off) Guinevere from Merlin. Also noteworthy was their difference in class status, with him being a prince and she being a servant.
  • Parks and Recreation: Who'd have thought a liberal feminist vegetarian community college professor would be hot for the carnivorous libertarian man's-man Ron Swanson?
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer is built on this. Cordelia and Xander, Willow and Oz, Faith and Xander, Giles and Jenny, Giles and Joyce, Buffy and Faith, Faith and Angel, Willow and Tara, Buffy and Spike, William and Drusilia, Faith and Wood, and there's likely several others unmentioned.


  • You Lost My Memory by Skyclad. This romance doesn't end well, but is described as sort of awesome anyway.

The Brownian-Motion within this love potion,
ensures our opinions are always dividing.

  • The Paula Abdul song "Opposites Attract" is basically all about this trope. And the music video involves her singing it as a duet with an animated rapping cat...
  • The song also called "Opposites Attract" by Juris.

Video Games

  • BioWare has a tendency to create somewhat psychotic mad people (usually women) who can be most successfully romanced by a nicer player character.
    • Jack in Mass Effect 2 is impulsive, impatient, anger-driven, and generally insane; the Paragon romance arc involves calmly and patiently listening to her issues and generally being nice.
    • Morrigan in Dragon Age is a survivalist in the extreme who believes love is a weakness; she does, however, approve of some of the Warden's behavior that is rather contrary to her stated doctrine.
    • Garrus in Mass Effect 2 has trouble with the rules, but is just as likely to fall for Female!Shepard if she calls him out on it and points out that the rules are there for good reasons as if she goes along with his ends justify the means ideas.
    • Bastila in Knights of the Old Republic is attracted to the male player character no matter what, so if you are a silly rule-bending sort or an Ax Crazy maniac your very straight-laced and overly serious companion will still fall for you.
  • In Fire Emblem Elibe we have Fiora (serious, motherly Pegasus Knight) and Sain (Chivalrous Pervert who mouths off to authority). And if you max out their supports, they get married.
    • also Fiora's Tsundere and Hot-Blooded middle sister Farina and Sain's partner Kent. Yup, they can get hitched at A support level too. They even hang a huge lampshade on this:

Farina: “This is probably someone else's doing... Like Marcus, or Oswin... You know, Merlinus might try something like this, too...”
Kent: “I don't think it is a conspiracy... I mean, what would anyone have to gain from making us fight together?”

  • The Forerunners Didact and Librarian from Halo. The Librarian is a Friend to All Living Things whose favorite species was humanity. The Didact is a Four-Star Badass in a society of pacifists, who was responsible for destroying humanity's empire and sending us back to earth as cavemen. Everyone lampshades how odd this match is; however, they both love each other fiercely.

Bornstellar: Your relationship with the Lifeshaper does not seem ideal
Didact: You don't know the half of it.

Web Comics

Web Original

  • Mille and Iriana of Ilivais X. Iriana is a Broken Bird Creepy Child who acts like an Emotionless Girl to avoid her Drive Core pushing her towards being a hyper Love Freak, and is highly logical and cynical, yet becomes surprisingly impassioned and devoted when those she cares about are in danger. Mille is essentially a blank slate Phonos Weapon in the form of a cheerful, lively, and outgoing Ethical Slut who's a little on the ditzy side and erratically emotional, but take Iriana from her and she becomes dark and sullen. They couldn't be more opposite, and they couldn't be crazier about each other.

Western Animation

Real Life

  • Actual science tends to show that the best predictor of compatibility is in fact similar background, interests, and attitudes. A likely reason is that we tend to only notice the ways a couple are different (since it's not that surprising when two partners are alike), at which point we feel the need to form a theory to explain why all the couples we see are so different (when they are, in fact, Not So Different). The grain of truth in it is that a partner who's exactly like you in every way would probably cause all sorts of problems, so we do seek our opposites, after a fashion—just not our total opposites.
  • SPC Kate Norley, an activist representing Vets For Freedom, a group whose "mission is to educate the American public about the importance of achieving success in [Iraq and Afghanistan]," and still an occasional guest commentator on Fox News, while attending the 2008 RNC convention to show her support for John McCain, as part of a campaign that earned her praise from right-wing bloggers up to and including Michelle Malkin, apparently fell in love with one of the correspondents there. They're now engaged, and they expect to marry sometime 2011. His name? John Oliver.
  • Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. For example, Roger Ebert hated Mars Attacks! because Tim Burton "seemed to like the aliens more than the humans" (paraphrasing); Gene Siskel loved it for the exact same reason. Even in watching old At the Movies episodes, you can tell that Siskel is more carefree and cheery, while Roger Ebert is ever-sarcastic and snarky.
    • The biggest case of this is perhaps their disparate views on Blue Velvet. Ebert notoriously hated it and found the scene with Isabella Rosselini standing naked on Kyle MacLachlan's lawn to be misogynistic, while Gene Siskel loved it and compared it to Psycho.